Countdown (supermarket)

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Industry Retail
Founded 1981; 35 years ago
Founder Rattrays Wholesale
Headquarters Auckland, New Zealand
Number of locations
Key people
Dave Chambers - Managing Director
Products Groceries
Owner Progressive Enterprises
Number of employees
Parent Woolworths Limited

Countdown is a New Zealand full-service supermarket chain and subsidiary of Progressive Enterprises, itself a subsidiary of Australia's Woolworths Limited. It is the largest single supermarket chain in New Zealand in terms of number of stores, though the Four Square chain owned by co-operative rival Foodstuffs - with operations mainly as grocery stores or smaller supermarkets in rural communities - is larger, with 275 franchised shops.


Foodtown, Central Auckland 2008
The same building rebranded as Countdown in 2010

In May 1981, the first Countdown market opened at Northlands Mall in Papanui, Christchurch. This business was established by Rattrays Wholesale. The Rattrays Wholesale Group included the Rattrays Cash and Carry warehouses, tobacco vans, now known as the Red Arrow Distributors fleet and also included the SuperValue group of franchised supermarkets and now operating as SuperValue/FreshChoice.

In 2006, Foodland Associated Limited (FAL) Australia, purchased the Countdown/Rattrays business. This acquisition was then followed by gaining a majority share holding in Progressive Enterprises Limited, including General Distributors Limited, trading as the Foodtown.

In October 1993, Foodland Associated Limited (FAL) bought the majority shareholding in Progressive Enterprises from Coles Myer and, shortly after, bought all remaining public shares and delisted Progressive from the New Zealand stock exchange. With this purchase, Progressive Enterprises became the parent company for a number of FAL brands. Progressive Enterprises consisted of Foodtown Supermarkets, Countdown, Georgie Pie, Rattrays and Supervalue.

On 17 June 2002, Progressive Enterprises Ltd bought Woolworths (NZ) Ltd from Hong Kong-based owners Dairy Farm Group. The sale saw Progressive's supermarket brands Foodtown, Countdown, 3 Guys, SuperValue and FreshChoice joined by Woolworths, Big Fresh and Price Chopper. As a result, PEL increased its share of the NZ grocery market to approximately 45%.

In 2003 Progressive closed its Auckland and Christchurch distribution centers and rehired the redundant workers.

During the period of 1993-2005, Countdown changed from a foodmarket type format offering mainly groceries to a "full service discount supermarket". The stores vary in size due to the consolidation of brands after the merger with Woolworths (NZ) Ltd. A number of Big Fresh, Price Chopper and 3 Guys stores were rebranded to Countdown stores during after this merger.

On 24 November 2005, Australian company Woolworths Limited purchased Progressive Enterprises Limited from Foodland Associated Limited.

In October 2006, Progressive Enterprises announced a discount fuel scheme with Gull Petroleum and Shell to offer discounts on petrol when shoppers spend $40 or more in their Woolworths, Foodtown or Countdown stores. This scheme was similar to the one their parent company Woolworths Limited offered in Australia. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission investigated[1] whether this activity was anti-competitive, the result of which was an undertaking by the parent company to change its methods of offering fuel discounts in Australia. Foodstuffs stores in New Zealand also offered fuel discounts at BP and their own New World and Pak'nSave fuel sites.

In July 2008, Onecard, which could previously only be used at Woolworths and Foodtown, was extended to Countdown.

In September 2009, Progressive Enterprises announced it would re-brand all its Foodtown and Woolworths stores to Countdown as stores were refurbished.[2] The final Foodtown and Woolworths to re-brand were Browns Bay and Meadowlands respectively, both on 14 November 2011. A single Woolworths outlet continues to operate at Mount Maunganui's Bayfair Shopping Centre.[3] The store was not rebranded because a Countdown already existed at the centre.[4] The suburb of Johnsonville, Wellington and the City of Upper Hutt, in Northern Wellington Region, both have two Countdown stores less than 150 m (160 yd) apart - the result of one pre-existing Countdown store and one larger rebranded Woolworths store. Both stores stock a similar range of products. The pre-exitsing Countdowns still have the old style logo but the rebranded Woolworths' have the new style logo. The same situation occurs in Napier whereby there are two Countdown Stores directly across the road from each other.

On 10 December 2012, Countdown launches its first Countdown branded in-store Pharmacy.[5]

On 3 November 2014, Countdown began selling low-cost life and travel insurance through a deal with insurance giant Cigna.[6]


As of 2014 there are a total of 170 Countdown supermarkets operating throughout the North and South Islands of New Zealand.[7]

Major store operations are handled in Progressive Enterprises's head office in Mangere, Auckland. The stores are divided in between 10 areas. Each area has an Area Manager, and all areas are supported by a National Operations Manager. Previously, the areas were split in North and South regions, with 5 areas each.

Pricing and specials are divided into two regions: North Island and South Island. Internally, the North Island region is further subdivided into two sub-divisions: Upper and Lower.

Countdown also provides New Zealand wide online grocery delivery (excluding Waiheke Island) services through its online grocery shop.[8]

"New Generation" Countdowns - those that have been built or refurbished since mid-2008 - have 30% of their retail floor space dedicated to fresh foods, a wider range of products than older Countdown stores (up to 30,000 items[9]), and heating and refrigeration systems that are more energy-efficient and sustainable than older Countdown stores.


All grocery items and general merchandise is supplied to stores through one of four distribution centres: at the head office in Auckland (National DC), one in Wiri (Upper North Island DC), in Palmerston North (Lower North Island), and in Christchurch (South Island). Deliveries are made daily to stores.[7]

Chilled and frozen goods are supplied to stores by third party logistics operator Versacold. They operate three distribution centres in Auckland, Palmerston North and Christchurch, and deliver to stores daily.[7]

Produce is supplied to stores by third party Freshmax. Fruit and vegetables from across New Zealand and the world are sent to the three distribution centres in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch, where they are shipped to stores daily. However, only certain stores receive a Sunday delivery.[7]

In recent years, Countdown has moved away from having on-site butcheries and have moved to centralised facilities. Cabinet Ready Meat (CRM: pre-cut and pre-packed meat) is supplied to non-butchery stores from a central plant in Auckland. Due to the complications of logistics in shipping CRM to the South Island, all South Island Countdowns have retained their butcheries.


Countdown's main competitors are both owned by New Zealand co-operative Foodstuffs Limited - the other player in the New Zealand supermarket duopoly - in the form of full-service supermarket chain New World (with 137 stores across NZ) and lower-cost 'food warehouse' PAK'NSAVE (50 supermarkets mainly concentrated in large, urban/suburban areas).

In terms of pricing, Countdown generally places in between the two. In a September 2009 Consumer magazine survey, Countdown was placed third in Auckland, with a basket of 40 brand items costing $136, four dollars above New World and $21 above Pak'n Save.[10] A year earlier in September 2008, a Consumer magazine survey placed Countdown second in Auckland, with a basket of 15 private label items costing $38.24, only $0.91 behind fellow Progressive brand Woolworths (the Woolworths store in question has since become a Countdown), and $1.87 ahead of the nearest rival, Pak'n Save.[11]

Marketing and Branding[edit]

The current Countdown branding was introduced on 21 September 2009. The word "Countdown" reused the original logo's red colour, but with a newly adapted font-type. The previous light green background was replaced with a white one and a logo with the "Shop Smarter" slogan was added. The logo - representing fresh produce - is also used by Australian Woolworths outlets.

On stores, the slogan is missing and the word "Countdown" is white. The logo and name sit on a dark grey background. On newer Countdowns, however (those built after 2013) the logo and name sit on a dark green background. Some older stores still have the old branding, which is the lettering 'Countdown' in red or orange on either a light or dark green background.

"Shop Smarter" - Countdown's current slogan was introduced in mid-2009 to the Countdown, Woolworths and Foodtown brands. The new slogan also accompanied the introduction of "The Smart Shopper", a series of 60-second twice-weekly television segment hosted by Richard Till.[12]

Countdown Kids Hospital Appeal[edit]

From August to November every year, every Countdown store around the country fundraisers to help sick children around the country. Some of they ways the raise money include, selling wristbands, raffles, BBQs and staff mufti days.[13]

Food donations[edit]

In 2011 Countdown put a formal structure in place, partnering with the Salvation Army to launch Countdown Food Rescue. This nationwide programme ensures that food that can’t be sold but is still fit for consumption is put to good use. They also donate a large trolley full of food from each of their 180 stores every year at Christmas.

Loyalty schemes[edit]

Countdown has two major loyalty schemes, which it shared with both the Woolworths and Foodtown brands before they were rebranded to Countdown.


Countdown uses a discount and rewards programme called Onecard which was introduced in July 2003. The actual Onecard is a standard magnetic stripe card that is loaded into the POS system via the EFTPOS terminal. Apart from discounts given as "Onecard specials" (only allowed to Onecard holders), whole $10 units spent are used to accumulate points or buying products with Onecard bonus points. You get one point for every 10 dollars spent. Four times a year these points are automatically redeemed for rewards vouchers which you can spend at Countdown stores nationwide. The more points you have,the higher the value on the voucher will be.The Onecard is also used for competitions - entry is automatic when the Onecard is swiped after filling competition conditions (e.g. buying a specific product).

Unlike membership-loyalty schemes in most retail outlets, Countdown's Onecard specials are the predominant visible price on member-discounted products. The non-promotional price is displayed below.

Onecard VISA[edit]

Onecard VISA is a card based on Onecard. It is the same as the regular VISA cards except you earn double points when you shop at Countdown, earn 1 Onecard point when you spent $10 anywhere where VISA is accepted and earn reward vouchers on some purchases. It supports VISA PayWave and is based off Onecard & VISA.

Fuel discounts[edit]

Introduced in 2006, Countdown supermarkets offer fuel discounts for all transactions of $40 and over (as of September 2009). These discounts can be redeemed at Shell/Z, and Gull petrol stations.

Private Label brands[edit]

Countdown has eight private label brands - of which all except Signature Range and 'Countdown' branded products are in common with private label brands of Woolworths Supermarkets Australia.

  • Countdown Value / Countdown Everyday / Countdown Finest - branding for fresh items, replacing the old 'Fresh Zone' brand.
  • Woolworths Homebrand - low-cost everyday grocery items
  • Signature Range - everyday grocery items, on par with branded products (previously owned by (FAL) Foodland Associated Limited in Western Australia which operated the Action Supermarkets, Supa Valu and Dewsons.
  • Woolworths Select / Signature Range Select - high-end grocery products
  • Woolworths Naytura
  • Woolworths Freefrom / Free From Gluten - grocery items for specific dietary requirements
  • Macro / Macro Free Range / Macro Organic - grocery items for specific dietary requirements )
  • Woolworths Essentials - general merchandise

Maori language week[edit]

Countdown has supported Maori Language Week since 2010 and has actively encouraged New Zealanders to embrace Te Reo in their everyday shopping. In June 2011 their Tokoroa store became the first with both English and Maori translations in every department. This was so successful that Countdown has since implemented Maori category translations in every new store

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. 6 December 2013  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. ^ Slade, Maria (21 September 2009). "Supermarkets rebranded in $1b overhaul". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 26 September 2011. 
  3. ^ "Woolworths". Bayfair Shopping Centre. Retrieved 24 January 2012. 
  4. ^ "Countdown". Bayfair Shopping Centre. Retrieved 24 January 2012. 
  5. ^ "First Countdown pharmacy opens". 10 December 2012. 
  6. ^ "Countdown checks out insurance opportunity". 3 November 2014. 
  7. ^ a b c d "Progressive Enterprises - Our Company - Progressive Enterprises Limited". Retrieved 2010-08-14. 
  8. ^ "Countdown Online Shop". 
  9. ^ "New Generation Countdown | Progressive Enterprises Limited". 2009-09-21. Retrieved 2012-01-20. 
  10. ^ "Where to find the cheapest groceries". 2009-09-11. Retrieved 2009-12-17. 
  11. ^ "Upmarket rivals steal Pak'nSave cheap label". 2008-09-17. Retrieved 2009-12-17. 
  12. ^ "Smart Shopper Launch | Progressive Enterprises Limited". 2009-06-08. Retrieved 2012-01-20. 
  13. ^ "Countdown Kids Hospital Appeal". 4 August 2014. 

External links[edit]